Where the hampster wheel always turns

About Me

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Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

I promised to share the details of my gems of wisdom so here's the first in this week's series.

Spring in Arizona is a spectacular time. Vibrant blossoms spring from prickly cacti, the song of birds drifts through the air, windows are open, neighbors greet one another - it's just like the beginning of the Christmas carol "Silver Bells" without the snow.

Living in a former commercial orange grove offers me some exciting springtime opportunities. One of those opportunities is the annual springtime fruit harvest. We have Valencia orange trees. Lots and lots of Valencia orange trees. One kid counted 47, another kid counted 52, I am too lazy to count so I usually tell people we have "about 50 trees" and hope my kids aren't so profoundly math challenged (the number of trees is greater than their fingers and toes) that we actually have only 23. The point is we have a lot of trees. Having a lot of trees means we have a lot of oranges. Having a lot of oranges means we can have a lot of juice. See, there is a logical progression to this story.

As I have been in the process of reaping all the springtime gifts that Arizona offers me my joy has been thwarted by a tiny vermin with awesome reproductive capabilities. Greater then the prolific rabbit, the Arizona Fruit Fly produces flocks that seemingly come from out of nowhere. Unchecked, these flocks can get so dense that more than one of my kids has run into the kitchen to excitedly tell me how much they love and appreciate me, only to be cut off by the inhalation and gagging on a cluster of chaotic airborne tidbits. It's tragic really.

Having fought this battle before, I immediately knew what to do - first, have the kid wash the bugs stuck in their molars down with a glass of juice. The combo of fruit fly and orange juice packs quite a protein-fiber punch. Second, it was time to put out "the traps." There are a lot of things in life which have important purposes, but unfortunate processes. Things like vaccinations, taxes and fruit fly traps.

The Internet has a whole bunch of ideas on how to eliminate the little buggers. Only one of them actually works: the oil and vinegar trap. Sadly, our flock of flies would require multiple traps - or me in a gas mask spraying malathion throughout the kitchen. So, for the last few weeks, we've had small bowls with vegetable oil and cider vinegar placed in strategic locations throughout the room. The good thing: they work. The bad thing: they ain't no scented candle. Each time I walk into the kitchen I cringe to think of what visitors to my home think.

The reality is that it there is a viable, wrestle able social decision between wanting people to contend with a flock of fruit flies, or be subjected to a gas cloud of cider vinegar. Seeing as how no one has come to visit for the last few weeks, I'm thinking I made the wrong choice.

Wisdom in My Old Age

Monday, April 26, 2010

I learned some new things this past week. I know, this amazes you but it is true! Each of these things has a story behind it, which I will share later, but I don't want to deprive you of the wisdom I continue to amass.

1. Vinegar does not make a good signature scent.

2. Peanut sauce and spicy mustard can be confused.

3. Kale and spinach actually make an edible smoothie.

4. I don't generally believe in "victimhood" unless it occurs during an "up-sell".

5. Boys can smell worse than you would think.

6. One can amass an entire army of strippers if one is very resourceful.

See, now how did you function without knowing these gems?


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Those of you who are die hard fans of mine...(meaning my husband and my dog) know that I work very hard to maintain my style and image. This week, as I was making a rare public appearance I was so pleased at the snappy ensemble I had put together. Even my shoes matched, which is a big deal for me - often I don't even have shoes.

Wandering through our neighborhood Sprouts store, I was fondling the organic fruit, and scooping voluminous amounts of pumpkin seeds out of the bulk bins as people passed by admiring my flare. More than one person made pointed eye contact with me and gave me an approbatory nod. Ohh yeah, I was workin' it.

Hauling my stylish purchases to the check out line I chose the line with one person ahead of me. This person was a Sprouts employee who was purchasing two oranges and a bottled water. I figured they would go quickly. I figured wrong. There, beside the line for checkout moral support were two co-workers of Ms. Orange eater. As I stood behind them in the cue, I listened to the employee conundrum of the day: A customer, (said with derision) purchased a 50 lb. cut of meat earlier in the day. Said customer, (said with derision) returned the meat to the store, having removed parts of it. The customer, (said with derision) asked that the meat be re-weighed and then re-purchased the cut of meat at the lower price.

I admit, I didn't think this was an ethical thing to do. What got my goat, (yes, I have a goat) was the way these three employees spoke of customers, (said with derision) in general. There was a genuine disdain for those pesky customers, (said with derision).

Now I get, that customer service in general is a tricky thing, but these people went on and on and on, completely oblivious of me, a customer, behind them in line. Their language was tacky, and crude. Not classy like mine. Ms. Orange eater's uniform had a smear of some unidentified food product across the sleeve and her khaki pants were stained. Not at all like my stylish outfit that was getting style nods as I went through the aisles.

I kept listening to this tacky talk, getting more and more frustrated that these people didn't A) realize that it was us customers that ultimately provided their jobs and B) that there was no sense of decorum in all of this. I don't think I'm a primadonna, but I would like to be treated with a reasonable amount of respect - like if your going to talk derisively about my kind please go to the break room.

As the trio finally moved out of the way, the checker made eye contact with me - because I'm so classy, and then gave me a little nod. I smiled back and the checker again, got direct eye contact and then gave an over exaggerated nod downward while keeping eye contact with me. Suddenly I realized why I was getting so much attention.

By the way, once everyone in the store has noticed, it's pretty hard to zip up your zipper discreetly. So much for my public image.

Maybe us customers get what we deserve...

I'm Not Quitting my Day Job

Monday, April 19, 2010

I stripped for six hours today. Seriously.

The mulberry harvest is on, and due to my genius idea to create an inverse skirt designed to catch the harvest as it falls, we have more mulberries collected on day two of the harvest than we did all season last year.

Persian mulberries are an interesting fruit. To eat them, or use them, one needs to remove them from the woody stem running down the middle. Since one of these mulberries is about the length of one of my fingers, stripping them from their stem is quite a process. Also, while they are quite tasty, they are not as aesthetically pleasing...

But catching the wily buggers is also a project.

Geometry was my best subject of all the math options, so I was in my element drawing the diagrams, sketches, calculating circumference, diameter and all sorts of mulberry skirt geekness. Usually I keep this sort of behavior confined to home, but imagine the looks I got as I, straight-faced, walked up to the cutting counter of my local fabric store and said " I would like 72 yards of this green tulle netting." Of course the clerk asks: "What for, my dear?" To which I answer, matter-of-factly: "To make a skirt for a tree." The cutter looked around hoping she could pawn me off on someone else, to no avail. There I stood, counting off yard after yard as I kept referring to my diagram - which I had displayed prominently at my side.

Carrying my bonanza to the check out counter, I paused only long enough to throw a mechanical plastic cow that pooped brown jelly beans, in the cart for my kids. I'm a giver if nothing else.

Starting the sewing part of my project, I soon found myself swallowed in enough green tulle that I felt like I was going to a giant leprechaun prom. Sewing 72 yards of tulle is totally disorienting. Multiple times I thought I was sewing the side, only to discover I was sewing the top, or the other side. Fortunately, botanical fashion is more forgiving than humanoid fashion. Even after strapping the thing on the tree, it never once asked me if it made it look fat. I will say, it takes a certain kind of confidence to carry off 72 yards of green tulle and this mulberry tree worked it!

So after hauling the giant bucket of mulberries to my kitchen, I settled in for the afternoon and began to strip. And strip. And strip. After an eon, I got through half of the bucket and have over 12 quarts of pulp. Stay tuned for the next few weeks of stripping. Then we'll move on to jamming.

Testing 1-2-3 Testing

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I have a doctor's appointment in the morning. It's an annual physical and I'm terrified. I have a thing with doctors. Our routine goes EXACTLY like this:

1. I make routine check up appointment.
2. I show up for appointment early, bathed, having followed all abstinence, hygiene and fashion instructions.
3. Doctor gives me the once over, poking, prodding, pinching, peering.
4. I am told to get dressed and then informed of 'additional tests' we will need to run.
5. These tests are always for something really bad. They involve more gouging, pinching, smooshing or imaging.
6. The painful, embarrassing, high-anxiety inducing tests come back - weeks later - and are pronounced totally fine.
7. The doctor then informs me that responsible people will "follow" the initial dubious findings. Which means on some arbitrary but regular basis we will repeat steps two through six again. Just for fun.

I don't know what is wrong with me, but I never fall within the AMA determined averages for normal people. (Most of you could have told me that without additional testing.) I have silly things like high billirubin - which apparently means I eat too many pinto beans. I have freakishly low blood pressure which inevitably means the nurse will check to see if I'm actually alive during the initial blood pressure check. I have cholesterol so low a doctor has actually told me to eat nothing but cheeseburgers with whipped cream. My body weight is not right. My eye color isn't on any chart. My fingernails are too short, my toes are too long - I'm a Shel Silverstein poem waiting to be written.

I've spent a good deal of time wondering if I'm on the bad side of the "Medical Advances" spectrum. It's great we have all these diagnostic abilities, but the reality is I am perfectly healthy until I enter a doctors office - then somehow I develop an odd syndrome, condition or malady - only to be told, "just kidding, you're just fine. But we'll check you again in six months, just to be safe."

I once had an X-ray that came out with a dark shadow on my lung. Panic stricken I was sent for additional testing, only to have the doctor's office realize that the X-ray was taken with faulty film. Yeah, that was a lot of fun.

The last time I saw my "down there doctor" she told me my thyroid wasn't right. I didn't know what to say - I had no adverse thyroid symptoms, and she had run no blood test - it just looked funny. Following up, my thyroid apparently just looks funny. It functions perfectly normal, but now has to see a therapist because it has a complex.

So tomorrow, off we go for round 976 of the above game. I have a dream that one day a doctor will say to me, "Hey weirdo, you're totally normal!"

Here's hoping that day is tomorrow.

Dressing the Cat

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tonight I am scheduled to teach a cooking class. I have taught classes for years, all over the United States. I love teaching and really enjoy the interchange between people who bring different tidbits of information. I always learn something cool at my classes. For some reason people have lined up to hear what I have to present.

In gathering the materials for tonight, I've developed a titch of anxiety over the presentation. I've got my materials, I know what I'd like to present, I've taken some deep breaths - all to no avail. The problem is I teach healthy cooking classes. Tonight's student sample: teenagers.

Reeeet-reeeeeet-reeeeeet - reeeeet (Yes that was my literary attempt at the Hitchcockian horror movie sound.)

Teaching teenagers about healthy cooking is like trying to put a leotard on a cat. In theory it might sound like a good idea, in reality it proves to be rather futile, and neither you nor the cat come out of the experience unscathed.

Usually my material centers around less meat, more fresh produce and adding unique whole grains. Mom's love that kind of stuff. Teenagers consider it akin to water boarding. As I'm contemplating my well being I'm thinking of holding up a Ding Dong that was near a banana and calling it good.

This is the second class in a series, and the first went surprisingly well - although that class involved pizza. Teenagers speak pizza. Tonight's fare will include lettuce wraps, chicken pot pie and a marinara sauced pasta. I was all excited about my selections when I was informed by an unidentified teenager that most kids today won't eat lettuce.

Ding Dong that was near a banana anyone?

Why I Don't Get Invited to Parties

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Easter weekend our church threw a lovely Easter breakfast slash Egg Hunt party. It was held in the retention basin in my neighborhood.

People who throw these sorts of parties are really good at making something out of nothing. There were lovely decorations, spectacular food, even chocolate dipped strawberries. Imagine, all of this in a retention basin.

I spend a good deal of time in the retention basin. (I know this shocks you). On my runs in and out of the neighborhood it has the perfect tree to stretch my hamstrings on. Because it is lower than street level, I can wrangle myself into all sorts of awkward stretchy poses without anyone calling the cops on me.

On some of my runs, dog accompanies me. While I am stretching, I usually let him off the leash. He runs across the park chasing birds, sniffing things, and eventually ends up laying at my feet licking himself. Like I said, it is better when my family is kept below street level.

So there we are, mingling in a spectacularly decorated breakfast buffet with all sorts of Easter regalia. Hubby, kids, dog and me. As the egg hunt portion of the event started I watched my kids run to the far side of the field. As they got farther and farther away, I realized that this was the last year they would be allowed to hunt, and I started to get quite emotional. Not wanting to explain myself to the other guests, and not wanting to miss their final hunt, I jogged after them with dog in tow.

The squeals of egg-hunting kids qualify for the "pure delight" category. I was smiling as I watched the kids race from egg to egg, bush to tree. Kids were calling for me to let dog off the leash - so I obliged. With joyful abandon he joined the frolic and I beamed watching the melee.

Then, true to form, we ruined the Rockwell moment. The squeals and giggles turned to shrieks and howls as dog lifted his leg on a bush and peed all over some hidden eggs. Trying to salvage my dignity, I rushed over to the dripping foliage as the planner of the event said, straight-faced, "All the candy inside is wrapped." Um, yeah, I'm gonna feed it to my kids then.

Hmmm, dilemma. I wasn't planning on touching any of the urine soaked orbs. Candy or not, I was perfectly fine leaving them there. Yet, clearly I was expected to extricate the treats inside and do something with the plastic ick. As I tried to decide which story I wanted to be remembered by - the cad who left the potty eggs there or the lady who touched dog pee at the Easter breakfast - I was stunned that about seven of the hunting kids stood watching to see what I would do. Apparently urine is more exciting than egg hunting. Who knew.

Reluctantly pulling a napkin out of my pocket, I picked up the eggs, wiped them off and gingerly carried them to a trash can where I deposited the toxic waste. The kids watched the entire time. Dog watched the entire time. I just prayed hubby didn't see this, as he would undoubtedly renew my social restrictions he only recently lifted. He didn't see me, but I was sure later on we would have this conversation:

"Hey Az, did you hear about the lady that was carrying urine soaked Easter eggs around the party? I wonder who it was..." And the whole time I would be cringing muttering to myself...'wait for it, wait for it, wait for it...' until it finally dawned on him that Urine Chick had to be me, and he would not be allowed to leave me unsupervised ever again.

Nor would we be invited back.

I have never been a morning person. Despite the fact that my father would awaken me at 4 in the morning during most of my teenage years so we could get in an early morning run before my early morning religion class and school that began at 7 a.m.

My whole life has been a series of such injustices.

Motherhood has trained me a little differently, and I do wake up on my own fairly early. Notice I said "wake up" not "get up". This morning I awoke around 3 a.m. This is not a normal time. Normal people sleep in past three. I toss and turn for a few hours and then, drag my sorry bones out of bed to awaken the kids and get breakfast going.

I made them a lovely breakfast. French toast, fresh sliced strawberries, bananas, warm maple syrup and whipped cream. Yes, you can call me Martha Stewart. After getting them going I waddled back to my room and collapsed back in bed. I understand this is the Cardinal Sin of mornings, but it takes everything I've got to perkily stand there while they munch.

A few minutes later Unnamed Child #2 wanders in. I lift my zombie-head and say "Need anything buddy?"

My children are now of the age where, for the most part, they recognize that I am not their personal slave. At this point none of my children would be unwise enough to say, "Yeah, would you get me a drink?" If they are making me move, then it better be for a fire, or a severed limb.

Unnamed Child #2 furrows their brow and says "Um, what?"

I repeat "Do you need anything?"

"Um, no, I thought you said you wanted me to taser you."


Well, now that I think of it, yes that is exactly what I need this morning. Please get the taser out of the junk drawer in the kitchen.

What am I Worried About?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I have been asked over the years why I don't run for political office. Granted, this question is always posed by people who don't know me very well, but I admit I have toyed with the idea a time or two. Yes, I am a political junkie. A glutton for punishment who pays attention to happenings that make me yell at the television, shake my fist at the radio and crumple up the newspaper. While I have many liberal and conservative friends, I have not met a person who supports the legislative trajectory we've been on for a number of years.

Being a "doer" I play with the idea that I somehow could make a difference. The problem with this idea is my shady past. I am convinced I could never pass the vetting process to be a Girl Scout leader let alone a member of a legislative body. My oratory skills which seem so handy at church and PTA meetings may or may not have been used to talk my way out of a foreign prison or two.

Also, I've been on posters - which may or may not have led to a meeting with John Walsh. And, this may or may not have been a friendly meeting. My passport has racked up a few stamps, all of which are legal, but I may or may not have purchased a Hard Rock Cafe - Moscow, t-shirt off the Soviet black market last time I was there. If there were such an item in my possession, it would be that I loved the irony that while there was no Hard Rock Cafe in Moscow in 1989, there was a thriving capitalist pop-culture underworld.

I'm so convinced that any political opponent would put me through such an excruciating wringer, that I quickly squelch any notions of throwing my hat in the ring. That and the fact that I don't have any real qualifications, unless listening to NPR and watching The O'Reilly Factor a few times a week counts.

My under-qualification is the main reason I think running for office would be another of my exercises in futility.

That is the world inside my brain.

Here is reality: One of our illustrious congressional leaders in action.

Are you kidding me? Good thing Rep. Johnson, D-GA has been voting on our national health insurance reform, stimulus package and other simple legislative concepts. Besides coming away with an even deeper seated fear about our elected representatives, I did increase in respect and admiration for the military. Anyone who could sit straight-faced through that verbal stupor deserves our praise and respect. I couldn't read his name, but I'm voting for Admiral Composure-of-a-Statue. I bet he's not even ticklish. That was the most impressive political display I've seen since... well, maybe ever. Props to the man.

Also, it's a good thing we have our population equally distributed between the coasts, which is why our nation is so stable. So you costal crazies... please just stay there. Rep. Johnson will be heading back to Georgia soon, and if their electorate has any sense, in the name of stability, they'll keep him home.

(Above clip courtesy of @David Carrington)

More Rep. Johnson, D-GA Watch the boogie at the beginning. It never gets better.
This means one thing, among others.

If you're a loyal reader you've followed our family's forays in the animal kingdom. You're familiar with our Goldendoodle who is part monkey. Opening doors, walking himself with his leash in his mouth and playing pranks on the neighborhood dogs by putting one paw atop an operating sprinkler only to jump off as unsuspecting lesser canines approach - spraying them in the snout. I swear, he can gut laugh.

You've followed my run in with the swarm of potentially Africanized honeybees. My battle with my nemesis fruit fly. Jimmy the bearded dragon, and yes, they are very tricky to shave. And coupled with Jimmy's arrival there were the cricket escapades. Needless to say, our interaction with the animal kingdom has not always gone smoothly.

Frequent readers know I do everything I can in my power to make things equal for my children. For the last few months, we've been having trouble in the ranks because of our unequal animal to human distribution. I have the dog. Unnamed child #1 and #3 have the bearded dragon, but Unnamed child #2 has nothing.

Being a middle child, this child often gets overlooked. So when they repeatedly request, cajole, beg and incessantly plead for their own pet, in the name of equity, justice and fairness, of course I eventually give in. (OK, they wore me down).

Finding the right pet has, thankfully taken a few months. We've searched high an low for the perfect new addition to the family. They wanted a cat, but due to extreme allergies in the family, that was never going to happen. I have to hand it to #2, they have found the perfect pet. Non-shedding, hygeinic, obedient and will eventually live in a container. Right now, it's living in the bathtub of the guest room, and we're working on a name. So far we're leaning toward "Linus". Here are some photos:

For more on where he came from: click here